Semifinal Saturday

Looking back and looking ahead as the media work area at Bridgestone Arena slowly comes to life.

It’s always good to be at the SEC tournament after Kentucky has lost. It’s much easier to move around and in the case of this year’s event, to park. Parking at this year’s tourney would be described by my teenagers as an “epic fail.”

The SEC typically puts on a good tournament, and that’s been the case in other aspects.

About last night …

Andy Kennedy said the Rebels have never quit this season. Certainly the Rebels haven’t quit down the stretch, and perhaps there is at least one more win in them, today at 2:30 against Vanderbilt in the semis.

From the world of Bracketology, I’m told that Jerry Palm says it’s a must-win for an NCAA berth, and I saw that Joe Lunardi has Ole Miss currently among the last four in. That’s what it said on the ESPNU ticker before the drive in. All that could change with today’s games. The answer to the question, “How much is enough?” is always “Just one more.”

While Ole Miss didn’t quit when it was down 13 in the second half against Missouri, Kennedy’s comment was in contrast to his statement after the loss at MSU on Feb. 6 when he said, “We all realize what just happened.”

Last night the tone was different: “We haven’t been done. You guys think we’ve been done. This team hasn’t been done. They’ve never quit. We haven’t been done.”

There were times this season — road games at Missouri — excusable to some degree by the quality of the opponent — at Texas A&M, at South Carolina and at MSU — when the Rebels may not have quit, but the level of fight wasn’t the same that we’ve seen at other times from this team.

Maybe it’s the feisty Rebels that win today and propel themselves into the SEC tournament championship game.

Looking Ahead …

Ole Miss defeated Vanderbilt 89-79 in overtime here in Nashville on Jan. 15.

It was the game that boosted Marshall Henderson into the consciousness of college basketball outside the SEC as his overtime-forcing 3-pointer at the buzzer — from just beyond halfcourt — gave the Rebels the chance to run by Vandy 11-1 in the extra period.

Ole Miss didn’t shoot poorly — almost 52 percent from the floor including 4-for-11 from 3 from Henderson, who scored 26 — but didn’t guard the Dores from the arc until the overtime when Vandy was 0-for-5. Before that, Vandy was 17-for-35, setting a Memorial Gym record for 3-point makes.

That will be the Rebels’ challenge later today — guard the 3. Four different Vanderbilt players had multiple 3-point goals in that game, three of them three or more.

Vandy was 8-for-17 from 3 yesterday in defeating Kentucky 64-48. The Dores challenge will be getting legs into their shots today, their third-straight day to play.

Vanderbilt eliminated Ole Miss in the SEC semifinals last year, 65-53, before going on to upset Kentucky for the title.

Vanderbilt has won five-straight SEC tournament games.

Ole Miss’ win last night makes Kennedy 5-6 in SEC tournament games and secured the Rebels’ third trip to the semis with Kennedy as coach.

Last year it was Ole Miss that was playing its third straight game on Saturday.

Vanderbilt has won three straight overall and six of seven.

Ole Miss has won three straight and five of six.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • JB

    My wild guess is that Vandy and Gators match up in the SEC tournament final; Gators and Billy the kid successful. The Gators were the only SEC team rated in the college top 25, but Gators do have problems at times winning on the road. JB.

  • JB

    PA, I have been on this Ole Miss blog for many years and I do appreciate your services and reporting on the Rebels, Whether some like it or not I believe you tell it like it is, My thanks to you. You stood by me when some of those Ole Miss fans wanted me barred from this web site, now I stand by you. Down here in this part of Florida we only hear Roll Tide, War eagles, Gator’s and Nole’s, but there some Ole Miss followers down here and we appreciate you reporting. Now i think the only way the Rebels have a chance to the NCAA dance is to win that SEC tournament of which I have Serious doubts about.. So keep up the good work. JB

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